All of the outer planets misbehave in synastry. Even the best of contacts give us something to struggle with, though the positive shows itself more readily with the easier aspects. Any outer planet contact is at its worst when we’re taken by surprise. When we’re older and have risen up from the metaphorical ashes a few times, we learn what we’re up against. If we’re taken in our innocence, the experiences of the outer planets can be life-altering. They’re meant to be. It’s difficult enough if we have major outer planet contacts within our natal chart, but when the contacts come from outside, via synastry, they can shock, stun and paralyze us, because we never see them coming. The experience comes to us via another, because we are blind to that dynamic within ourselves.
Pluto has a dangerous reputation in synastry. He’s the guy in the room who causes everyone to back away a little. It’s well-deserved. With Pluto comes jealousy, obsession, compulsion, fearsome desire, terror, rage—a fight to the death, to the last gasp. In its more self-destructive phase, it can be a wish for death. With Pluto can come the experience, and hopefully an understanding, of the deepest, darkest desires of human nature: the impulse to destroy, to break taboos, to experience the forbidden. But Pluto is also about the impulse to cleanse, the impulse to heal. Pluto strips away the crust, the rot, the poison that is preventing us from experiencing our own spiritual wholeness. He doesn’t ask our permission or compliance. Pluto will get what it wants, by any means necessary—we only go along for the ride. When Pluto contacts another’s planet, it is to discover these dynamics within itself.
The Martian side of Pluto, in his role as the higher octave of Mars, is the one most visible in synastry. Pluto, in relationship mode, sets out to satisfy desire. No matter the planet it contacts, Pluto desires to be reborn through a deep psycho-sexual exchange with another human being. Pluto can go after whatever it needs to this end with a frightening intensity. There is a vast difference, though, between the way Mars and Pluto operate. Mars simply satisfies desire. In comparison to Pluto, Mars is rather mindless—it sees something it wants and it goes for it. On the other hand, Pluto has an agenda, a purpose, which is ultimately soul-oriented. Pluto wants to test our limits, to strip us down to the essence. Mars is direct. Pluto is not. There is an attraction/repulsion dynamic to Pluto that is interesting to observe, particularly in synastry. Pluto is torn between the known and the unknown; it senses that the unknown offers a kind of death, and is not fool enough to embrace it wholeheartedly, even though it knows that particular death is necessary. Pluto will do this ‘dance of death’ until desire inevitably wins out (it is Martian, after all). Then Pluto will hang on until its mission is accomplished, no matter the suffering. Life may be divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ this Pluto contact. We are still ourselves, but we are not the same.
Transformation is Pluto’s ultimate goal. Whatever the aspects, Pluto strips away the ineffective coping mechanisms and false confidences of any planet it touches. Pluto will explore that planet’s depths and seek out what isn’t working. Pluto doesn’t involve the willing seduction and surrender that Neptune implies. With Pluto, the attraction is hypnotic, and very often feels unavoidable. The old Self, with all of its imperfect coping mechanisms, struggles to stay alive. Usually, the old Self loses. (Or it runs away, living to fight Pluto another day.) Relationships with heavy Pluto contacts have a Nietzschean tinge: that which does not kill me makes me stronger.
It would be nice if we could say that all these Pluto contacts were for the best, but that would be like putting a Good Housekeeping seal of approval on an earthquake. It’s good to rebuild, but the method or means or timing can be in question, and it doesn’t always have to be from the ground up. Pluto has the task of stripping away any psychological dross that no longer works for us, or affirms what has been shakily established. But Pluto, too, has to learn its limits. The best of Pluto goes forward with awareness. The worst of Pluto doesn’t know the difference between pruning dead branches and uprooting the entire tree. He can be a healer, allowing new growth, or he can be a thug, leaving us lying battered in the street.
Read Part 2: Pluto and the Inner Planets
This post has been republished by permission of the author and appeared in its original form at The Inner Wheel.